Backgrounder: Science Behind Canadian Untreated Sawn Wood Certification Program


The Canadian Untreated Sawn Wood certification program was developed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) with the technical support of scientists with the Canadian Forest Service (CFS) of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). A research team of four scientists with NRCan's Pacific Forestry Centre (PFC) in Victoria, British Columbia, has worked with authorities in Australia since 1999 to address concerns about pathogens and other pests on Canada's exports of untreated sawn wood that may pose a risk to Australian ecosystems.

An insect pest known as the "ambrosia" beetle is the main concern. They are among the insects most frequently moved via international trade and pose a threat to commercial timber. "Ambrosia" is the common name for the fungus cultivated and eaten by adults and larvae of the beetle while living in the tree. Unlike the more familiar Mountain Pine Beetle, ambrosia beetles do not usually attack living trees and kill them but their presence in trees and timber results in commercial losses due to staining. As the ambrosia beetles bore galleries into a log to lay their eggs, they leave behind dark, unsightly fungus stains that degrade the value and quality of wood. Kiln-drying and heat treatment are normally used by industry to kill any insects associated with sawn wood products but ambrosia beetles can survive in untreated timber.

Ambrosia beetles are naturally found in forests around the world. The two most abundant and damaging North American species of concern to Australia are Trypodendron lineatum and Gnathotrichus sulcatus.

The new certification program is an alternative approach to safely export untreated sawn wood. Participation in the program requires approved facilities to produce sawn wood in accordance with a documented phytosanitary management system that integrates multiple manufacturing processes. Some examples of the manufacturing processes include, inspection of logs by trained scalers, inspection of boards by trained approved facility employees during the grading process, applying antisapstain to each board and inspection of packages during assembly or storage by trained facility employees.

Documented procedures are also in place to ensure that non-compliant sawn wood is separated from sawn wood compliant with the program for each approved facility. In addition, sawn wood intended for export to Australia must be separately stored from all other wood, it must be stored in a manner to prevent contamination by plant products like soil, the shipping container must be inspected by trained personnel prior to export, records of inspection must be maintained by the facility for a two year period and employees in approved facilities that are responsible for activities associated with meeting phytosanitary requirements must be appropriately trained.

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